Looking to make accommodation that's both accessible and comfortable for a person with dementia?
Alison Hughes from furniture specialists Coast Road Furniture, shares her four top tips for making a dementia-friendly home that works for everyone.
We all want a home that feels comfortable and familiar. And most importantly, we all want it to be accessible and liveable. While it isn't too difficult for most people to create a house that feels safe, secure, and homely, this can be a challenge for people with dementia. There are a number of extra considerations to take into account, especially when regarding safety, which can make the process seem overwhelming.
As the number of people living with the condition is growing year-on-year due to the aging population, it's important to consider how we can create safe spaces for people with dementia (NHS). To make things a little easier, use the following four tips to create a comfortable and stylish dementia-friendly home to keep you or your loved one safe and secure.
Invest in specialist furniture
It's a good idea to make finding furniture that's both comfortable and practical a top priority. Many people who experience dementia also tend to struggle with mobility as their condition progresses. This is partly down to issues with balance and coordination, which often occur in the later stages of the disease, but can be seen early in the diagnosis too (Dementia Care Central).
In order to make the home as safe as possible, choose specialist furniture that's made for people who struggle with their mobility. A few specialist pieces to consider include:
A motorised bed to make it easy for the user to get up and start their day.
A comfortable reclining sofa and chair to make sitting down and standing up easier.
An accessible bathroom suite complete with a walk-in shower or wet room with a seat, low sinks, and a toilet with handrails.
When choosing the right furniture, remember that style doesn't have to be sacrificed for practicality. These days there are plenty of accessible furniture ranges that are both fashionable and functional, and come in a range of styles and shades. Opt for colours such as blue and green, as the former has a calming effect on dementia patients, and the latter can make the room appear larger (The Advocate).
Soundproof the rooms
People with dementia often struggle with auditory issues. In fact, hearing is often the sense that is most impacted by the condition (SCIE). One of the most common hearing issues faced by dementia patients is a difficulty processing sounds and distinguishing them from each other. That's why it's important to keep excess noise to an absolute minimum.
Including a variety of soft furnishings, such as blankets, cushions, and curtains, is a great way to reduce excess noise, as they can absorb sound. Carpet is also great at doing this, and it's safer than wood flooring if they have a fall. If it's not possible to replace the current wood or vinyl flooring, opt for a secure and well-fitted rug with a strong grip, so it doesn't become a trip hazard. You should also try to install noise-reducing doors and windows to reduce the infiltration of outside sounds.
Fill rooms with light
We all want to have homes full of natural light, but this is especially important for people with dementia. Having plenty of light in the home can reduce the risk of trips and slips, and it can also prevent people with the condition becoming confused (NHS). If you can, try to allow plenty of natural light in. Sunlight has health benefits for dementia patients, such as protecting vision and boosting vitamin D production, even when the exposure is through a window (Absolute Trust Counsel).
Try to keep curtains and blinds open for as much of the day as possible, and cut back trees or hedges that are blocking light. You could also consider installing a few new windows to boost natural light exposure if necessary. And make sure that the key areas of the home are very well-lit with both natural and artificial light, such as the bathroom and kitchen.
When it comes to artificial light, opt for automatic ones so that they don't need to remember to turn them on and off. If the home is lacking in natural light, you may want to consider purchasing one or two light boxes, as they mimic natural sunlight and are great for helping users get decent sleep (AgingCare).
It can sometimes be difficult for people with dementia to fully interpret and understand what they see, especially things with subtle shades that don't stand out. Having contrasting colours can be particularly beneficial, as it makes it easier and quicker for them to distinguish between objects.
Choose contrasting colours for the floor and the walls, to make it easier for them to get around. This is particularly beneficial when it comes to ascending and descending the stairs. Opt for bold colours that can easily be spotted, especially for tripping hazards such as rugs or foot stools. Tableware should also be a bright colour, to make the edges of the plate or bowl clearer.
When it comes to choosing the perfect colour, as previously mentioned, blue and green are great options for people with dementia. Red is another good shade to use, as it has been found to increase brain wave activity (Cooperative Extension Service). Whichever colours you opt for, make sure to avoid stripes and other bold patterns, as they can cause more confusion.
By using the tips above, you should end up with a homely, stylish, and most importantly accessible house that a person with dementia will feel comfortable in.
If you own or work in a care home and are interested in creating a positive experience for all of the residents, make sure to check out the services offered by Bright Copper Kettles CIC.